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Cannons at Dawn: The Second Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1779

Review

Cannons at Dawn: The Second Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1779

By January of 1779, the Revolutionary War has been boiling for almost four years. Twelve-year-old Abigail worries about her father, a soldier in George Washington's army, while she and her mother and siblings struggle day by day in their home 18 miles outside of Philadelphia. It's difficult to go for months without word, not knowing if her father is alive or dead. But writing in her diary every chance she gets helps ease her frustrations and fears, at least a little. Soon, however, a tragedy strikes that will change their lives forever.

Their snug home catches fire in the middle of the night. Abigail and her family manage to escape with only the clothes on their backs and a few other belongings. With nowhere else to go, they decide to join the group of families that follow along behind their husbands in George Washington's army. In exchange for food and protection, the families cook and do laundry for the soldiers. And when time permits, they even get to visit with their husbands. But following the army is no easy or safe way of life.

They have to be ready to move out at a moment's notice, traveling on foot in all types of weather, carrying their belongings and babies on their backs. Oftentimes food supplies are very low and starvation gnaws their bellies. In the summer, the heat and mosquitoes plague this society; in winter, the freezing temperatures and howling blizzards scourge them. Illness, frostbite, British soldiers and hidden secrets afflict this meager band of refugees. But they do find a few bright spots in their days, including caring for their husbands, making new and lasting friendships, and even falling in love.

Kristiana Gregory has written many books, including Abigail's first diary. But one doesn't need to have read THE WINTER OF RED SNOW to understand and enjoy CANNONS AT DAWN. The journal spans from January 2, 1779 to October 19, 1781, and includes an epilogue to let readers know what happens to Abigail and her family afterwards. Also featured are loads of illustrations and maps, and a very interesting Historical Note after the Epilogue. As with other books in the Dear America series, CANNONS AT DAWN flows entirely in a diary format, giving the story an up-close-and-personal point of view. There is a ton of history to absorb, but in the more entertaining storytelling format as opposed to the straightforward nonfiction sort of way. And even though the story is fiction, a few historical figures make an appearance, including George Washington and his wife, Martha, Benedict Arnold and others.

Gregory does an amazing job recounting Abigail's experiences, portraying the incredible obstacles and hardships those men and women endure. She also keeps the story interesting and engaging, with the pages demanding to be turned.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on May 1, 2011

Cannons at Dawn: The Second Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1779
by Kristiana Gregory

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2011
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 0545213193
  • ISBN-13: 9780545213196